WASHINGTON (WSPA) — The Justice Department has launched two separate civil rights investigations into two South Carolina jails, the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston and the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Columbia.

These investigations are in response to allegations and concerns about the conditions and treatment of incarcerated individuals at these county jails.

Officials said the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Carolina, initiated these investigations based on a review of publicly available information and input from stakeholders. 

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said the department received credible allegations of serious violations, including deaths resulting from use of force, gross medical neglect, and suicide at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center. Similarly, the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center is under scrutiny for being structurally unsafe, with reports of sexual assaults, homicides, and widespread violence leading to severe injuries at that facility Clarke said.

According to Clarke, the investigations will review whether or not federal law is being violated, specifically the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

“This federal law authorizes the Justice Department to investigate state institutions, including county jails, to determine whether incarcerated people are subjected to a pattern or practice of constitutional violations,” Clarke said.

Justice Department officials shared that the Al Cannon Detention Center investigation will also assess whether the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office discriminates against individuals with disabilities within the facility.

“People confined in local jails across our country do not abandon their civil and constitutional rights at the jailhouse door,” said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general.

U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs echoed this, highlighting the aim of protecting constitutional rights and ensuring the safety of all people in South Carolina, including those in county detention centers.

Officials in Charleston and Richland counties were notified of these investigations before the announcement. They have pledged their cooperation with the investigations.

During a press conference Thursday afternoon, officials in Richland County said they welcomed the investigation. Richland County Administrator Leonardo Brown said county leaders have been committed to making improvements at the facility and are pushing to increase staffing levels.

“We are formally fully committed to the safety, security and wellbeing of detainees and employees at an Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. We will continue to work diligently to address the concerns and create an environment that reflects our values of transparency, accountability and respect,” Brown said.

In a statement released Thursday, Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano wrote:

“I stand by the statement that I made back in March 2023, and I will say it again:

The allegation that we have been anything but transparent is categorically false. Councilman Pryor and all members of council were invited to review thorough documentation of our concerns that we made to the county contracts office over the past year. They did not take us up on our offer. It is disappointing that some county council members, as well as other elected officials, are only curious when it is politically opportunistic.

I stand behind the work of my employees. They are the hardest-working people in this county. The work that they do keeps us all safe. I will be the first person to welcome any member of the Department of Justice to my facility, and I believe that we are going above and beyond our call of duty to provide assistance on mental health concerns. I also invite the elected officials of South Carolina to do their job and do their part to stop the dumping of the mentally ill in jails.

I welcome the announcement of the DOJ investigation. Any member of the public – including those same elected officials who called for the investigation – is always welcome to ask questions and to come see the great work we are doing at the Charleston County Detention Center.”

Sheriff Kristin Graziano

No timetable was given on how long these investigations will take.

The Justice Department said individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the department about the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center via phone at (888) 473-3201 or by email at Community.Glenn@usdoj.gov and the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center via phone at (888) 473-4059 or by email at Community.Cannon@usdoj.gov